Cover: Strolling through Old Montreal
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull
What’s Montreal like in August? Rainy, breezy, muggy, sunny, cloudy … and that’s all before lunch. Weather fluctuations aside, Montreal is beautiful in August, with average daytime temperatures peaking at 81°F / 27°C and lows averaging 57°F / 14°C. So, for those wanting to escape the hotter summer temperatures of the U.S., August in Montreal is the perfect cooler getaway.
August is also peak tourist season so, in the areas of the city where tourists are prevalent, such as Old Montreal and Downtown, it can be very crowded. Both districts are fun areas to visit, but preferring a less touristy neighborhood for daily life, we selected the Plateau for our home while in Montreal.
The Plateau and Mile End
The Plateau is the hipster, artsy neighborhood filled with color, life, and attitude. Our apartment overlooked Mont-Royal near Saint-Laurent Boulevard – a perfect perch above the bars, cafés, specialty boutiques, and resale shops that line the streets in abundance.
Mont-Royal divides the Plateau and Mile End districts, so technically we stayed in the Plateau and looked across Mont-Royal to the Mile End neighborhood, both of which are part of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.
The best thing to do in the Plateau? Wander. Stroll the streets, have a coffee, take in the daily life, and admire the colorful buildings and the fabulous street art.
Getting downtown from the Plateau is simple – it’s just a straight walk down Saint Laurent Boulevard. The journey from Mont-Royal to Rue Sherbrooke is about a mile / 1.6 kilometers.
A walk along Sherbrooke Street West
Rue Sherbrooke / Sherbrooke Street a major Montreal thoroughfare, with Saint Laurent serving as the divider between east and west. A stroll along Sherbrooke Street West is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.
In addition to numerous hotels located along the street, including the Ritz Carlton Montreal, Sherbrooke West is home to galleries, boutiques, McGill University and the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal museum.
From June 5 -October 29, 2017, Sherbrooke is also the site of a public art exhibition in celebration of Montreal’s 350th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Flags from the 13 Canadian provinces and nearly 200 countries flutter above Sherbrooke Street during the exhibition, named La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum. The kilometer-long exhibition features 72 works of art from artists from around the world.
Even if you can’t make it to Montreal during the exhibition, permanent works of art can also be found in the Sherbrooke West area, such as Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature, which evokes the Inukshuk, a symbol of Canada’s Inuit peoples.
Another interesting installation just off Sherbrooke on Avenue McGill College is The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason. The work is said to represent the flow of man’s emotion through space.
Heading along Avenue McGill College towards the heart of Downtown Montreal, the buildings turn into skyscrapers and the shopping begins.
In addition to the thousands of outdoor, above-ground retail stores located in Downtown Montreal, one can head inside to malls such as Complexe Desjardins on Rue Sainte-Catherine or underground to access the 30+ kilometers of interconnected areas and passageways leading to hotels, shopping centers, and businesses.
A vibrant area near La Gauchetière Street, Le Quartier Chinois de Montréal / Montreal’s Chinatown, is home to many Asian restaurants, import stores, and food markets. A great spot to grab a bite or take a stroll, Montreal’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Asian communities in North America.
Dating back to 1642, Montreal, or Ville-Marie as it was first known, was established in the area that is now referred to as Vieux-Montréal / Old Montreal. A major tourist attraction, Old Montreal is one of the oldest urban areas in North America.
Countless restaurants, cafés, bars, hotels, galleries, and shops line the winding, narrow paths of Old Montreal. Popular attractions include the beautiful Hôtel de Ville de Montréal / Montreal City Hall, quaint Saint Paul Street, the lively Bonsecours Market, and the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica.
Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal
Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal was dedicated in 1829 and is located at the corner of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame West across from Place d’Armes Square. Notre-Dame was the first Gothic Revival style church built in Canada and was designed by New York architect, James O’Donnell. O’Donnell is the only person buried in Notre-Dame’s crypt.
Intricate wood carvings are set against a backdrop of gorgeous hues of blues, purples, and golds inside the grand cathedral. In 1982, Notre-Dame was raised from a church to the status of a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II.
The Casavant et Frères of Saint-Hyacinthe pipe organ dates back to 1891 and has 7,000 pipes, 92 stops distributed over four keyboards, and a pedalboard.
St Lawrence River Cruise
After walking miles and miles exploring Montreal, we felt we needed a break and decided to relax aboard a river cruise on the St. Lawernce River.
While there are multiple companies offering different cruise options, we opted for a late afternoon cruise that departed from Alexandra Pier in Old Montreal. Food and beverages were available with waiter service aboard the boat allowing us to sit back and enjoy the views while sipping on a lovely Viognier. Cheers!
Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, with 6,084 athletes participating from 92 countries. During the games, Nadia Comăneci scored the first perfect 10 in gymnastics and Bruce Jenner won a gold medal for the decathlon, setting a world record of 8,634 points.
Today, visitors to Parc Olympique de Montréal / Olympic Park can ride a cable car to the Observatory at the top of Montréal Tower, attend one of the many events held throughout the year, or visit the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Botanical Garden, Montréal Insectarium, or the Biodôme.
Biodôme at Olympic Park
Originally used as the velodrome (cycling stadium) during the Olympics, the building was converted to the Montreal Biodôme and opened to the public in 1992.
Visitors to the Biodôme de Montréal explore four ecosystems found in the Americas – the Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Sub-Polar Regions.
The Montreal Biodôme replicates the different eco-systems, providing visitors an up-close encounter with over 4,500 animals from over 220 different species and thousands of plants.
Eating in Montreal
Montreal has a vast selection of dining options with cuisines from around the globe and available at all prices. We dined on excellent Greek, Italian, seafood and vegetarian fare, along with finding some fabulous spots for coffee and cocktails. Check out a few of our favorites in Eating (and drinking) in Montreal »
Know before you go to Montreal in August
Bring your walking shoes. While Montreal has good mass transit, it is a highly walkable city. If visiting during the warmer months, bring a good pair of shoes and enjoy the sites while getting some exercise.
Rainfall. August is typically Montreal’s most rainy month, with a historic average of 100 mm of rainfall over 15 days of the month. Comparably, the least rainy months are January-March, with an average of 60mm of rain each month.
Bring the sunscreen. Montreal averages almost 8 hours of sunshine per day in August.
Language: Montreal is a bilingual city, with French spoken as the primary language, but 56% of the population speaks both English and French.
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